Oakley has been in the “sunglasses as tech wearables” game for a while now. However, the Oakley Thump was not exactly a world-beating piece of kit. In the list of “why is this a bad idea”, we had:
– Sometimes you want to listen to music indoors & not look like a junkie
– Why are there little pods on the side of your glasses
– 512mb of storage? That’s cute.
– Apple has an ipod? Fuck.
That said, glasses as wearable are obviously a thing, and we’re waiting for someone to really get it right. Usually though, we are looking for visual augmentation. Google Glass, etc, used overlays and small monitors to add visually to your experience, with audio additions as a secondary.
Oakley hopes to flip that on its head with the Radar Pace. These glasses include very familiar little pods on the side, but also include technology that interactively responds to activities you’re doing. The UI is something new in the space, an intelligent voice command system that can respond in-context to chained audio queries. For example you can ask it a specific question about your speed, pace or heart rate, and then latter say something like “OK, what is it now?” and the system will pick up that you are still talking about the same thing as the last command. This is a stunning level of interaction magic, and brings this type of UI up a level if it works well.
The glasses use the time tested “Radar” form factor, a popular model among runners, bikers and triathletes. And the ear-bud pieces are removable, just in case you want to wear the glasses out someplace without looking like a borg.
Battery life is a concern, as the system is only rated at 4-6 hours depending on whether you have music pumping through it (and you will, unless you’re not working out with music or you have another pair of ears). Also, in a misstep bordering on “dude, what the fuck?”, the Apple Watch and Watch2 are not among the heart rate monitors compatible with the system & its app. “Most” other BLE devices are supported, but make sure you check.
As a runner and biker, as well as a fan of Oakley sunglasses, not to mention a wearables fanatic, the Oakley Radar Pace is looking like it might be a solid entry into the space. Without trying to add visual items, Oakley is totally sidestepping the major hiccups everyone else is experiencing. If their Intel powered voice control system works well, they are going to establish themselves as a major player early in this game. If it sucks, it will be another Thump. Time will tell.